media release

Spinal cord injury study featured at Open House

February 24, 2014

Contact: Carolyn Sparrey, 778.782.8938;
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.9017;


Simon Fraser University researcher Carolyn Sparrey’s research on spinal cord injuries–featuring a state-of-the-art surrogate cord system and a mechanical injury device–will be among health technologies highlighted at the Surrey campus Global Community Open House March 6 from 4:30–8:30 p.m.

Sparrey will demonstrate the system, developed in her lab, as part of the School of Mechatronics Systems Engineering showcase during the event.

“Understanding the mechanics of the impact that causes a spinal cord injury is critical for identifying opportunities to prevent or reduce injury severity,” says Sparrey, an MSE professor, and one of several SFU researchers to recently become part of the new NeuroTech Lab housed at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Sparrey creates life-size, synthetic spinal cords from plastic, minimizing the use of animals for spinal cord studies, and loads them into specialized testing equipment that mimics accident conditions. The results are compared with MRI scans from real patients to refine diagnostic methods and improve treatment.

During her postdoctoral research, Sparrey focused on accident reconstruction, examining how the spinal cord is damaged during a motor vehicle accident, the main cause of such injuries.

“Sensors from crash test dummies only provide information from the boney vertebral canal rather than from the cord itself,” notes Sparrey, who hopes her research will enhance crash test dummies and improve safety standards for seat belts.

Sparrey developed the School of Engineering Science’s first bioresearch lab at the Surrey campus through major CFI and NSERC grants, and is the first materials-focused researcher within the MSE school.

Other open house highlights from MSE will include exhibits of myriad health tech innovations and green technologies as well as student-designed projects, including automotive projects, such as a full-size formula-one racing car, and unmanned aerial vehicles that students design and construct for competitions.

The event, which draws more than 3,000 visitors annually, will feature an array of hands-on exhibits in each of SFU’s eight faculties. Visitors can take part in robot battles, experience how music aids pain management, test “wearable” technology, dress in “period” costumes, catch live science experiments and interact with touchable sea creatures, to name just a few offerings.

There will also be information sessions, an array of cultural performances, tours of the award-winning campus, games and food. Details on academic programs, student services and admission will also be available.

For more information see:

Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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